What is gum disease?

Periodontitis and what you need to know

Most of us would go to the doctors’ without delay if we suspected that we had a throat infection or heart disease – but many people have undiagnosed gum disease for years before getting help.

Gum disease is a potentially serious condition if left untreated. Not only is it the most common cause of tooth loss, it can also have a detrimental effect on our overall health. Like any infection, it can potentially spread to the rest of your body.

How can I tell if I have gum disease?

The first sign that you may have gum disease is that your gums become red and bleed when you brush your teeth – a condition called gingivitisInflammation of gingival tissue without loss of connective tissue.. This is an extremely common problem which is caused by plaqueA soft sticky substance that accumulates on teeth composed largely of bacteria and bacterial derivatives. or bacteria building up on the teeth and gumline as a result of insufficient or irregular cleaning.

The more serious problems come when gingivitis progresses deeper into the connecting tissue and causes periodontitis – a disease of the tissue which attaches the teeth to the jaw bone. In periodontitis, the infection burrows into this tissue and the body defends itself by destroying the bone.

If periodontitis has developed, you might experience bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, gum recession or gum abscesses (pus that collects under your gum). Eventually, the affected teeth may become loose and fall out. With this type of gum disease, you will probably need to see a periodontist (a specialist in this area) who may carry out surgery.

How can I avoid gum disease?

Gum disease affects most adults to some degree, and becomes more likely as we get older because our gums naturally recede – which is where the expression ‘long in the tooth’ comes from. 

However there are lots of things we can do to avoid gum disease:

•    Use interdental brushes or floss to clean the areas between the teeth
•    Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day
•    Make regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist who can give your teeth a thorough clean and remove any hardened plaque (tartar)
•    Stop smoking 
•    Avoid stress – recent studies have shown there’s a strong link between stress and gum disease

While we don’t know all the causes and effects of gum disease, it’s clear that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and looking after our teeth are the best ways of safeguarding us against this condition. Learn more about gum disease and how to prevent it, and find a good dentist near to you at leading UK dental group Colosseum Dental.

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